London, Jan 30 : Mohamed Al Fayed personally gave a nod to the doomed plan that led to the deaths of his son Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, the inquest into the couple's deaths has heard.
Kes Wingfield, one of two bodyguards assigned to the couple, told the jury that he and his colleague Trevor Rees had argued with Dodi that his scheme for the couple to leave by the back door of the Ritz Hotel in Paris was "a terrible plan" because there would be no back-up car and no security guards.
But in response to their objections over his proposed escape from paparazzi at the front of the hotel, Dodi told them: "It's been approved by MF, approved by my father."
Wingfield said that if he and Rees had been allowed to "do our jobs properly" the Princess would still be alive today.
Rees has already given similar evidence to the hearing at the High Court in Central London, but he admitted to having memory loss after suffering severe injuries when the Mercedes in which he was the front-seat passenger crashed in the Alma Tunnel.
Al Fayed has consistently claimed that the accident was planned by the Duke of Edinburgh and engineered by British security services.
Wingfield told the London hearing that he and Rees had constantly asked the Fayed organisation for backup, as they needed eight people to guard the Princess properly, but their pleas were repeatedly rejected, and they were kept in the dark about the couple's movements, thus disabling them to plan ahead.
When the couple arrived at the Ritz at 10pm on August 30, 1997, a crowd of photographers had gathered outside, leaving Dodi Fayed "agitated", said Wingfield, a former Royal Marine.
"I suggested to Dodi that if he told us where we were going we would be able to call ahead at least to arrange some kind of reception for him in a sanitised area where no photographers were allowed," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
He only later heard from Henri Paul, the Ritz's head of security, that Dodi had decided on a plan to evade the paparazzi, he added.
The initial idea was for both bodyguards to leave by the front, where two "decoy" cars were waiting, while Henri Paul drove the couple away from the back entrance, he claimed.
Both bodyguards had objected, he said, and when they spoke to Dodi personally after midnight, he had been persuaded to allow Rees to go with them, but still from the back of the hotel.
He said Dodi insisted: "It's OK, it's been okayed by MF. It's been okayed by my father."
"I have total recall because when Dodi said that, I remember that feeling that I got ... once Mr Fayed was mentioned in any capacity like that, in that organisation, argument was pointless," Wingfield added.
He further explained that ringing the Harrods boss directly was not an option.
"If I had tried that - particularly with how sensitive Mr Fayed was about the Princess and Dodi - it would have been almost disrespectful and it would have implied that his son was lying," he said.